News Briefs

Salem State’s Annual Darwin Festival Goes Virtual

Salem State University’s annual festival in celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday will be held virtually February 8 through 12, 2021 with a week of lectures. In its 42nd year, The Darwin Festival is a community-oriented event for scientists and non-scientists alike. This year’s festival will feature two webinars a day, one at 11 am and one at 2 pm. Topics include: the evolution of skin color; the biology of cities; the biochemical signatures of disease; the origins of wound repair; the mating habits of cannibalistic spiders; the diversity and adaptation of coral reefs; the impact of human behavior on evolution, and more. All talks will be followed by a moderated Q and A are free and open to the public. Registration required. Visit for for more information. 

“Due to the pandemic this year’s festival is entirely virtual, allowing us to welcome speakers and audiences from across the country,” remarks festival coordinator Ryan Fisher, a professor of biology at Salem State. “In true Darwin spirit, the festival is adapting and evolving to meet the time. We are excited for the possibilities.” 

The Darwin Festival was founded in 1980 by Virginia F. Keville and Philip A. DePalma as part of the course “Human and Social Biology,” a biology course for non-science majors. The event was a way to celebrate the impact of Charles Darwin’s work while providing students with an opportunity to connect humanity and culture with scientific research. The festival has since evolved into a community-wide event that draws students, scholars, and curious minds from around the region. 

The 2021 Darwin Festival is organized by Salem State University’s department of biology with support from the Charles Albert Read Trust Fund, the Student Government Association through the Biological Society and the Scuba Club, the Keville-DePalma Darwin Festival Endowment Fund, Salem State University administration, contributions from Academx, and other individual supporters.  

Topics and speaker bios can be found at

Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, public institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth, Salem State enrolls about 7,300 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers 32 undergraduate programs and graduate programs that offer degrees in 24 fields. The university also has a continuing education division that offers both credit and non-credit programs. Known for the academic strength of its faculty, Salem State was named a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars in 2011 and for the 2016-2017 academic year. The university is designated a Top College and University by Military Advanced Education and a Best for Vets College by Military Times. Salem State proudly participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement and has shown a student voting rate well above the national average, earning the university a gold seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

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